USA intelligence agencies revealed
December 17, 2002 6:18 AM   Subscribe

USA intelligence agencies revealed Ok. But we get 5% of our oil from there. You decide.
posted by Postroad (23 comments total)
Oil... schmoil.
posted by Witty at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2002

Perhaps someone can enlighten me exactly what is wrong with Chavez? Sure he's an ex-dictator (but who now won an election to get inpower). Is he driving the ecomomy into the ground? Comitting vast human rights abuses? I see massive demonstrations but I have no idea over what it is exactly they're demonstrating about other than they want him out.

As for the link, I don't see any intelligence agencies involved merely a letter asking from the US govt to the Uruguayan govt asking them to support trade unions. Granted at the time the US thought the coup would last and wanted a quick resolution to the conflict.
posted by PenDevil at 7:16 AM on December 17, 2002

This article reminds me of this.
(This American Life, Hearts and Minds, November 30, 2001, Episode 200)
posted by four panels at 7:24 AM on December 17, 2002

Some background material on USA intervention in Latin America recently discussed here
posted by Voyageman at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2002

It is important to absolutely believe news items like this verbatim. Any thought that there may be some question as to their veracity should be firmly denied, and discussion should immediately move to how terrible Bush is.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2002

Hmm. That can be a good website for Venezuela info, but the publisher is an admitted Chavez supporter and lots of what's there should be taken with a grain of salt or checked against other sources. The particular story cited is pretty damn shakey.

Here are some additional links on the U.S. role in this situation, more substantive I think. I tried to link to various viewpoints on the L-R spectrum...

The New York Times

The Interhemispheric Resource Center on the NED's role [ check links at bottom too -- lots of background ]

The Center for Economic and Policy Research

The International Federation of Journalists

Common Dreams

The Economist [ Premium content, costs...]

The Emperor's New Clothes

The Observer

The Guardian

From Znet
posted by Kneebiter at 7:59 AM on December 17, 2002

"The problem is that Venezuelan television and major newspapers have been hiding the true fact that there are huge popular uprisings in support of the Chavez Frias government "

Looks like they have that damned liberal media down there too! Globalization forces respect no borders or governments. Duhbya call for "early elections" in Venezuela but should be competent enough to realize the Constitution of the country does not have provisions for anything like that. What is Chavez doing wrong? He's supporting a tax on oil companies who do business there in order to alleviate the massive and abject poverty of the very rich country. What a bad, bad man!
posted by nofundy at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2002

Someone put this thread out of its misery before it spawns.
posted by jammer at 9:33 AM on December 17, 2002

It starts off we have information that the president is going to be overthrown in the next 72 hours and it's written on the 12th...
posted by zeoslap at 9:40 AM on December 17, 2002

Anyone pooh-poohing the idea of CIA manipulation of Venezuelan newspapers, TV and radio because of the source should read the CIA's own account of its media manipulations in Chile before the coup that brought down Allende in '73.

There were sustained propaganda efforts, including financial support for major news media, against Allende and other Marxists. Political action projects supported selected parties before and after the 1964 elections and after Allende’s 1970 election...In 1967, the CIA set up a propaganda mechanism for making placements in radio and news media...Propaganda efforts to support public media consisted primarily of funding and guidance to recruited assets within selected Chilean radio stations and newspapers...

In 1965-66...the CIA established a covert action project to support the placement of propaganda in Chilean mass media. This project was to influence public opinion against leftist parties and candidates...The scope of CIA’s propaganda activities in Chile was further expanded in 1967, to promote “anti-Communist” themes, specifically against the Soviet Bloc presence in the country.

If at first you don't succeed...

Nonetheless, the Chilean left made political gains during the Frei Administration. As a result, CIA was given approval in 1968-69 to undertake additional propaganda operations intended to influence Chilean mass media. This included establishing a propaganda workshop and other mechanisms for press placements...

In response to Nixon’s direction, CIA took a variety of actions, including...forwarding worldwide propaganda information for placement in local media [and] initiating efforts to promote public opposition to Allende among leading newspapers such as El Mercurio

Manipulating the press is SOP in any campaign to destabilize/overthrow an elected leader in another country; the CIA has used it very effectively in the past, and it's a sure bet that its tossing lots of your tax dollars at Venezuelan media outlets as we type.
posted by mediareport at 11:01 AM on December 17, 2002

your tax dollars

Er, make that 'U.S. tax dollars.' Sorry to any Venezuelan and other non-U.S. readers.
posted by mediareport at 11:02 AM on December 17, 2002

Caracas News (which seems like a relatively fair aggregator) linked to a FoxNews story that dims opposition hopes of military support for a general strike:

Gen. Julio Garcia Montoya urged citizens to distrust opposition leaders mounting "an aggression against the survival of the country that oversteps democratic boundaries..."

Still, everyone seems to think the protests will continue. Interesting news today, too, about how the higher oil prices due to unstable situations in Iraq and Venezuela may affect prospects for an economic recovery in the U.S. If Cheney/Bush are indeed supporting the oil strike, U.S. businesses and workers will end up paying at least a short-term cost.

Btw, Postroad, the figures I've seen are much closer to 15% than 5%; the link just above says Venezuela "accounts for about one of every seven barrels of oil imported to the United States."
posted by mediareport at 12:28 PM on December 17, 2002

Actually I believe the US gets close to 15% of its oil from Venezuela, about the same as Saudi Arabia-- a country whose unelected leaders the administration supports, unlike the elected Chavez who is not supported and who has been undermined by the US government. However this article is still pretty specious, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the US needs to have moral clarity when it comes to support for democracy.
posted by cell divide at 12:31 PM on December 17, 2002

This is yet another sad chapter in U.S. foreign relations. Chavez was democratically elected by an overwhelming majority of citizens. When a coup was attempted against Chavez last April, the U.S. State department provided no support, but instead congratulated the insurgents within hours. This proved embarrassing when the coup failed. So much for the big lie about promoting democracy around the world. No wonder "they all hate us."

It's interesting how the unrest is called a "strike" when it is basically a lockout by the oil company executives. It boils down to class warfare between the wealthy oil company executives who are descendants of the Spanish colonists versus descendants of black slaves and indigenous indians. Chavez is trying to implement land reform and a fairer distribution of profits from natural resources to the poor. The oil companies, which also own all the TV and radio stations, of course, oppose this.

The U.S. call for early elections is unconstitutional and undemocratic. It is a shameful display of hypocrisy and although you don't hear much about it in the U.S., you can bet the rest of the world is paying attention. It really is all about oil.
posted by JackFlash at 12:39 PM on December 17, 2002

Greg Palast wrote an excellent article on the story behind the Chavez coup attempt. Fascinating stuff.
posted by ToothpickVic at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2002

As some of you may know, I take a different view of the Venezuela situation. First, Postroad chose an exceptionally poor link with which to open this discussion; there has been excellent coverage in top First World media that could have provided more background. As some in this thread seem confused, I will provide an introduction myself.

First, one has to understand that Venezuela has a class and race division. The urban class is largely of European or mixed descent, but the agrarian poor remain mostly indigenous. Chavez, who had himself (it should be recalled) attempted and been jailed for a coup in 1994, was elected president in 1998 and sees himself as a champion of Bolivarism, and probably genuinely does want to help the indigenous and mixed classes benefit more from Venezuela's oil wealth. But he has gone about this very cynically.

In 1999 he drew up a new constitution; over the next year he added people to the courts and legislatures who supported him. He attempted to remain in office under the new constitution, by merely extending his term, but after an extended fight, his own supreme court under his own new constitution forced him to hold new elections. The charges of authoritarianism and coup talk has been in the air at least since then, but probably from the beginning of his wholesale reconstruction of the government. But it really heated up as Chavez persuaded the legislature to grant him the power of decree in early 2001. By later that year, in the last hours of his emergency powers, he had implemented a set of reforms called "the 49 decrees" which would restructure much of Venezuela's economy along quasi-socialist lines.

Since these reforms were passed by presidential decree and not the legislature, although the legislature had given him the power, they were deeply unpopular with the urban classes, including the trade unions. Whether as a result of the reforms, or as the reason for them, the economy continued to fail. By December 2001 a number of protests and strikes had occured, and the national association of trade unions called a general labor strike. This included oil company workers and professional white collar workers as well as most blue collar sectors. The general strike was widely honored and paralyzed the cities for several days, but failed to win any concessions from the government on the 49 decrees.

By April 2002 members of the military were openly siding with the protestors, who had returned to scattershot strikes. The coup occurred when one of these protests, on approaching the presidential palace, was fired on by mysterious rooftop snipers. Far from discouraging the protestors, they formed an even larger, angrier protest and again approached the palace, calling for Chavez to step down. This is when it gets murky; the military coup leaders claim they were ordered to send tanks against the protestors. The coup, badly mismanaged if there ever was one (which does suggest it was spontaneous and amateurish), did collapse shortly thereafter. The US had been slow to react; the OAS denounced the coup, and from this point on the US has strongly supported the OAS position that a negotiated settlement is the desired outcome.

The opposition, who did not feel that the coup served their interests, has insisted that Chavez a) step down, b) call new elections, or c) hold a non-binding referendum. Chavez has insisted that the new constitution by which he rules does not allow for even a referendum until late 2003 -- and his term runs through 2007. The Venezuelan Supreme Court has been considering petitions from various parties for several months and has ruled inconsistently, most recently suggesting that a non-binding referendum on Chavez's presidency would not conflict with the constitution. This week, half the Supreme Court went on strike to protest government pressure. The OAS over this same period has attempted to get the parties to sit down together but their mutual contempt has generally been too deep. The Carter Center sent a fact-finding mission to Venezuela in the summer to see if they could jump-start these talks, but despite the presence of Jimmy Carter himself, made only minor progress and remains involved only as an observer, as the divisions were nearly unbridgeable. (They only came back, it appears, because the OAS begged.) For a time, Chavez appeared to be much more conciliatory, recognizing his weakened position, but has hardened his position over time.

Everyone in Venezuela knew that if there was no agreement or breakthrough, there would be another national strike in December. So far, this strike has lasted longer, and paralyzed the economy even more thoroughly, than the one it commemorates. To characterize it as an oil-executive lockout, as JackFlash does, is a most unfortunate misunderstanding: the unions, and the oil company management, are in agreement with regard to national policy. The only sector of the country, in fact, that is not deeply unhappy with Chavez is the agrarian poor. His approval rating, before the strikes, had already fallen to under 30% -- which is an obvious reason he has resisted even a non-binding referendum. In calling for new elections, the United States is only echoing the OAS call for an "electoral solution" to the crisis (in fact, today, the WH clarified their stance as supporting a referendum under the constitution rather than new elections).

There are other reasons to think that Chavez does not deserve the support of the US (which is not the same thing as supporting a coup). He's erratic, he's dictatorial, he's a mouth, he thinks Fidel Castro's Cuba is an economic model, he supports (at least tacitly) leftists rebels in Colombia, he admires Carlos the Jackal (1970s terrorist extraordinaire), he has funded so-called "Bolivarian Circles" throughout the cities -- supposedly as political action committees (or as even progressive supporters call them, a million-strong revolutionary network, but allegedly with arms and with orders to disrupt demonstrations against the regime, making them more of a Chavista militia, and his policies have in a few short years riven his country in two, grievously wounded its economy, and alienated every sector of society but the agrarian poor. It's great that he wants to advocate for them, but not at the cost of destroying his country in the process. If there is a constitutional crisis, he has brought it on himself; if there is an economic crisis, he has brought it on himself; if there is a strike against his rule, he has brought it on himself. And if there is another coup, he will have himself brought about the destruction of Venezuelan constitutional democracy.

PenDevil: Chavez is not an ex-dictator. He is an ex-coup leader, but he was freely elected. It is his actions in reforming the constitution and ruling by decree since his election that are what people think is "wrong". Human rights abuses don't seem to be a problem, but the economy, as stated, is being driven into the ground -- especially by the strikes against his rule, but also by his policies.

nofundy: Neutrality of the media thinning in Venezuela, with private TV stations running the protests and government TV running the (generally smaller) counter-demonstrations.
posted by dhartung at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2002

I'm glad you weighed in, dhartung. Nicely done. The only point you didn't address that seems important to me is the notion of direct U.S. support/encouragement for the destabilizing strikes and heavily tilted private media. Do you think that's a factor here? Assuming it is, is that sort of thing a foreign policy program you'd support, or do you feel it's morally wrong and should stop?

I also question this:

The coup, badly mismanaged if there ever was one (which does suggest it was spontaneous and amateurish)

Since when are badly mismanaged and amateurish plots a sign the CIA *isn't* at work? I don't see why we should take a bungled coup as any sort of evidence that U.S. intelligence agents weren't involved.
posted by mediareport at 4:10 PM on December 17, 2002

Dhartung - I second the comment that your post was a good cover of the recent venzuelan situation - with the caveat that you omitted to mention the US news blackout about the recent (attempted) Venezuelan Coup attempt. Many major US news organizations backpedalled very quickly about that situation, later admitting that their reporting of the (supposed) overthrow of the Chavez regime was......a bit premature

Point? - In this situation, the objectivity of the US media is very much in question.
posted by troutfishing at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2002

In this situation, the objectivity of the US media is very much in question
to say the least. Every major media outlet in the U.S. celebrated the supposed overthrow of a democratically elected leader -- so much for democracy. For a better picture of what happened in April try here, here , here and here. The odious Otto Reich had his fingerprints all over that one. He's been resurrected from the Reagan administration by Bush to reprise his old schemes in Latin America (and recently transferred to the Middle East, god help them.)

and the United States is only echoing That is a real joke. On Friday Ari (lying? - his lips are moving) Fleischer said "the United States is convinced that the only peaceful and politically viable path to moving out of the crisis is through the holding of early elections." It was several days later he was finally shamed into backing off after it was pointed out that what he was advocating was unconstitutional.

Chavez has made many mistakes, but that doesn't excuse the U.S. provoking his overthrow. Apparently Bush is taking the same tack as Kissinger just before he arranged the overthrow and assassination of Allende in Chile when he said "he saw no reason why a certain country should be allowed to "go Marxist" merely because "its people are irresponsible."
posted by JackFlash at 12:31 AM on December 18, 2002

trout, when you speak of the "recent (attempted) Venezuelan coup" I assume you mean the Chavez government claims of a foiled coup plot designed to coincide with the October 10 strike and protest. There was no coup, only charges of a coup plot (one of many allegations dismissed by Chavez opponents, such as this Harvard Fellow).

If, instead, you speak of the short-lived coup of April, the misreporting you may be recalling was early reports that Chavez had quit, which were skeptically received given his isolation (on, as it turned out, an island military base). Backpedalling was necessary for any media, US or otherwise, who reported that at face value. For about 60 weekend hours, however, the overthrow was widely believed to have succeeded, and was reported so around the world. By Monday night, that had changed. I don't see how this figures as either a blackout, backpedaling, or questionable objectivity; Chavez was effectively ousted, and even he would say so, if only to underline his triumphant return. I would agree that US media gave only cursory, others-are-saying attention to the charges with which mediareport is concerned regarding alleged CIA involvement.

Incidentally, I find in this ZNet report on the October demonstrations every attempt to downplay their significance, although in large part it's fair -- until the end, where I find JackFlash's talking point regarding how the left media are painting this as a "paid lock-out" in an effort to discount the involvement of the labor unions. To be sure, the article also notes charges that the government is paying its demonstrators. Finally, I would note this highly charged NarcoNews article which makes every effort to paint the opposition as threatening a coup, which to my reading seems false. It was, instead, the government who made wild charges of a coup plot, with scant evidence seemingly recycled from the spring. Verdict: Spin all around, best hold on tight.

mediareport, if you're looking for US involvement in a hearts-and-minds campaign, I suggest a starting point may be this opinionated (and at times imaginative) piece on the role of the NED and IRI in Venezuela (Congressionally-chartered and partially taxpayer-underwritten alphabet soup non-profits, the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, the former bipartisan and a pet of Clinton, the latter an explicit expression of Reaganism), not to mention the School of the Americas and the AFL-CIO for good measure. (I sure didn't know the AFL-CIO was part of the vast CIA gearing. I guess that explains the Gore endorsement.) He doesn't have any smoking guns beyond the press-release level, but I suppose I wouldn't be surprised if some of the private media turned out to have some American dollars keeping them running.

Hypothetically, though, to answer your question, I am undecided regarding Venezuela. I believe it is just this side of the brink beyond which I would consider it a failed democracy, and so as President myself I would probably maintain a hands-off situation. This is not, for example, a matter of horrendous human-rights abuses. But the more impervious Chavez remains to the demands of his own people, not to mention his neighbors (OAS), trading partners (US) and investors (World Bank, etc.) [although he has in fact made pains to keep both the oil trade and investment situation on an even keel, showing he's no fool], the harder a time he's going to have governing no matter what the US does. I would prefer a more overt campaign by the US with carrots rather than sticks; such a campaign, carried out in the open, in media across three continents (NA/SA/Eur), essentially persuaded Lula to forswear breaking anything major when he takes the reins of Brazil.

In my view, nothing could strengthen democracy in South America as a successfully managed economy under a leftist government, as well as the knowledge that rule may sway from left to right over time democratically and peaceably, so I place a great deal of hope on Lula. If the only way that leftist policies may be successfully implemented is through rule by decree, they will never be accepted. If the policies are not responsive democratically to the people, they are in my opinion illiberal.

JackFlash, please read what I wrote again. Do you maintain that no Venezuelan has the right to be unhappy with his policies? Do you maintain that in the face of rule by decree, any democratic population should remain mute? If there is a significant class which is opposed to the regime, at what point do you consider that opposition legitimate? At what point do you consider the government illegitimate, for not responding to the people? How would you apply these same questions to the United States for the last two years?
posted by dhartung at 1:28 AM on December 18, 2002

Thanks for the links and enlightening commentary dhartung. I'm for placing much of the "blame" on the oil companies (and their government cohorts) and the forces of the IMF/WTO/World Bank as redistribution of wealth and property is contrary to the interests of their well served elites.
posted by nofundy at 5:21 AM on December 18, 2002

Dhartung - I meant the April actual attempted coup. I don't have the time at the moment to do so - I seem to remember a tremendous amount of embarassment - and later backpedalling - on the part of both liberal media outlets (The NYT, and Public Radio) and The Bush Administration for instantly proclaiming Chavez's successfull ouster. Is my memory correct or was this my personal spin? I'll check it out.

The dynamics of the Venezuelan situation remind me quite a bit of those surrounding the coup against Allende in Chile. I'm not alleging a similar US (CIA) effort to oust Chavez -- the opposition is clearly indigeous in this case -- but the current attempt to oust Chavez may succeed where previous attempts failed because of Venezuela's economic tailspin driven largely, I believe, the oil production shutoff. A similar economic tailspin (partly engineered) preceeded the Chilean coup.
posted by troutfishing at 6:34 AM on December 18, 2002

Do you maintain that no Venezuelan has the right to be unhappy with his policies?
I said nothing of the sort. I merely said that a democracy should be allowed to make its own decisions, as messy at that process may be, without the interference of the U.S. An opposition is essential to democracy within the bounds of constitutional procedures. Bush crows about the U.S.. being the center of the moral universe and greatest defender of freedom and democracy when his actions prove that to be untrue. The U.S has a long history in Latin America of stepping in and thwarting democracy when the outcome starts to become uncertain and possibly unfavorable to U.S. economic interests. It is that heavy-handed self-interest that arouses so much hatred against American and in the long run makes Americans less safe.

And since you bring up U.S domestic affairs, the U.S. had adequate constitutional procedures in place in December 2000 and it would have been nice if the Supreme Court would have trusted the outcome. It's likely the results would have been the same. Just as in foreign affairs -- if they don't like the risks inherent in the exercise of democracy, they try to rig the game.
posted by JackFlash at 8:35 AM on December 18, 2002

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